Alumni Focus on Cynthia Heard (OD'92)


HometownDr. Cynthia Heard

Jackson, Mississippi 

Which degree(s), related to optometry, did you earn at Ohio State?


Who were your mentors at the College of Optometry? Who had a positive effect on your education?

Dr. Richard Hill was a great mentor in assisting me with in finding where I fit in leadership schemes. He encouraged me to pursue student leadership roles outside of the College of Optometry on the wider campus as a whole.

Dr. Yvonee Johnson was a great mentor for me as well. She was an instructor and administrator who helped me develop my practice philosophy and idea of how I wanted to treat my patients and address their issues.

Dr. Sarah Yoest (OD’84) was also a great influence on my decision to pursue a residency in Vision Rehabilitation. She spoke to my class in seminar one day at the beginning of my fourth year of optometry school. I also had the good fortune of rotating to the Central Ohio Vision Center and being supervised by her for 10 weeks. She was the kindest and most patient individual I had encountered at that point. She allowed me to walk in her shoes for a moment to offer patients with visual impairments some encouragement and hope. That was enough of an experience in that area to know that I wanted to learn more about caring for patients with visual impairments.


Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.

Birmingham Veterans Affairs Residency in Geriatric Vision & Visual Rehabilitation; Resident; Birmingham, AL (1992-93)

The Ohio State University College of Optometry; Clinical Assistant Professor of Optometry, Columbus, OH (1993-07)

Southern College of Optometry, Professor of Optometry, Memphis, TN (2007-present)

Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.

As a clinical educator my days vary, but most of the time I either supervise four interns at a time in the morning or the afternoon. We review charts for patients we will examine, we review pros and cons of management strategies, and decide what we will recommend for the patient. Some days include committee meetings, grand rounds, or volunteering at vision screenings. I most look forward to interacting with students on a level that allows us to make a connection that transcends teaching and learning. We make connections that allow a collegial relationship to start to develop. These connections, I hope will last a lifetime.

Which optometric issues concern you the most?

Cynthia Heard

I am quite concerned about educational debt. I talk to students routinely about how they will manage this dilemma. I want future colleagues to be able to pursue the types of practice opportunities that they desire without constantly being aware of the need to make enough money to live and pay off loans.

Why did you choose a career in optometry?

I chose optometry as a career after my first eye examination at age 13. I tucked this idea away in the back of my mind for many years. I thought about my career goals as I approached high school, college, then professional school. As I shadowed optometrists and researched the field on my own, I didn’t waver on my decision to pursue this profession. I enjoy talking to prospective students and their parents about the bright outlook for the field in the future.

Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?

I plan to be five years closer to retirement. I enjoy what I do daily.

I would like to continue to supervise interns and see low vision patients until that time. Mentoring students and being available for them is an important aspect of my career from which I get much satisfaction.

What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?

They should know their worth as they approach looking for a position after graduation. They are better trained than any other group of optometrists at that point and should have confidence in that knowledge.

Cynthia Heard


What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?

Firstly, I was excited to learn that I would be given the President’s Citation from Ohio State University President, Dr. Gordon Gee, during my fourth optometric year. I believe that Dr. Hill nominated me for the volunteer work I did with the college's National Optometric Student Association Chapter and involvement with diversity activities on campus as a whole to help recruit minority students to the optometric program.

Secondly, I was humbled to graduate in The Horseshoe with over 5,600 other graduates. It was the largest venue I had ever been in. I have Ohio State to thank for expanding my thinking and opening my mind to the possibilities of things of which to take advantage. It was one of the most meaningful days of my life.

What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?

The optometry program is a significant part of my professional history and development as a health care professional. It is important for me to give back to the college to help current students realize their own hopes and dreams.

How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?

I stay in touch by donating to the College of Optometry annually. I receive Ohio State University and College of Optometry newsletters routinely to stay up-to-date on what is happening on campus. I also still have colleagues who teach at the College of Optometry.


Tell us about your first-ever eye exam.

I was 13 years old during my first eye exam. It was the first time that I felt my opinion or preferences mattered. I was prescribed a small refractive error that made the distance clearer. The idea of becoming an optometrist was born in my heart that day.

What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?

I enjoy movies, concerts, art festivals, and sporting events with my husband.

What was the first concert that you attended / most recent?

My first concert was James Brown at the Mississippi coliseum when I was seven years old! I never got to see him in concert again. Most recent concert was the gospel group, Commissioned, at Graceland performance space. I love all sorts of music, and outdoor concerts are the best!

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

To perform a miracle for someone else every day. We all need our faith restored in humanity at times to remind us that there are good, decent people still around.

What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard

Four eyes are better than two! I know, eye jokes are so cornea!

If not an optometrist, I would be ...

A therapist. I like to people watch and figure out what makes them tick.